Jump to content
IGNORED

Article: Drobo FS Network Attached Storage (NAS) Review


Recommended Posts

I considered getting a Drobo a few years ago when it first came out, as the ability to increase the array size without having to replace all the drives was very attractive (I had a Thecus 5200Pro and got sick to having to upgrade all 5 drives whenever I ran out of space). After reading some of the horror stories online about total data loss and poor customer service from Drobo, I started looking for something else and stumbled upon <A HREF="http://www.lime-technology.com/">unRAID</A>. It's got one of the main features of Drobo (the ability to expand the array without upgrading all the disks) with one major advantage--the data isn't striped, so total data loss is next to impossible (for the RAID savvy, unRAID is a customized version of the Linux distro Slackware using RAID3 without striping). With unRAID, if you lose more than one disk at the same time, you'll only lose the data on the affected disks, not the whole array. I'm not a big fan of consumer level RAID solutions that utilize striping, as total data loss is much more likely when doing so. Plus the unRAID server I bought was about half the cost of an equivalent Drobo when it came to the number of array slots. Now unRAID is much more of a geeky product than Drobo for sure, though the beta 5 version will supposedly incorporate a much nicer GUI and support for pre-compiled plugins. The unRAID forums are active with some extremely experienced sysadmins and storage engineers, and I've never had an issue getting quick answers to questions, including installing several media server applications like Squeezecenter, Twonky, Plex, etc. So if you're comfortable behind the command line, like the ability to use commodity hardware of your choice (you can also buy a pre-configured server from the developer of unRAID), want to save some money and have IMO more robust data integrity, I'd strongly consider unRAID as an alternative.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like there's an awesome deal at B&H right now as well.<br />

<br />

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/686297-REG/Data_Robotics_DRDS2A21_Drobo_FS.html<br />

<br />

<br />

Price: $549.53<br />

Mail In Rebate -$100.00<br />

offer ends DEC 31 '11<br />

Price after Rebate: $449.53<br />

<br />

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

Link to post
Share on other sites

I too thought the specs for the Drobo FS made it a good choice over other NAS raids, but it has been a massive hassle, 2 DOA units and the software is buggy, check out the user forum on the Drobo web site to see all the problems before making a buying decision.<br />

I don't use it as my music storage now but as a second home Time machine backup, and it is slow over ethernet.<br />

I prefer an eSATA sonnet fusion JBOD enclosure, with 2x 3TB drives striped together as my 6TB itunes library with another 2x 3TB drives set up as a Time machine copying the first 2 drives.<br />

Normal RAID system use proprietary software so if the unit goes down you cannot access any of the drives unless you find an identical enclosure to put them in,( the striped data problem ) most people only think you need to worry about a single hard drive failing at a time, and don't consider the RAID software as another more serious failure area.

MBP 10.6.8 >Amarra>Weiss 202Dac>Funktion 1 F40Q amp>Funktion 1 101 speakers & MB210 sub

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Chris,<br />

<br />

Could you tell what is the media software installed on the Drobo NAS. This is to me an important issue since I am experiencing unsolved problems when trying to read my files metadata with my QNAP's Twonky Media (http://forum.qnap.com/viewtopic.php?f=177&t=38457&p=242275).<br />

Thanks Gilles<br />

Pioneer N-30>Sonic Frontiers Ultrajitterbug>AudioNote DAC1>Conrad Jonhson Premier 14>AudioNote Conqueror>Cabasse Egea 500

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have spent more than a year testing and using various Drobos (two FSs and two classic Drobos). I have used them for general data usage and backup, but I'm particularly focused on music (I have an iTunes catalog of mostly lossless music ~500GB) and pictures (I have a catalog of mostly RAW (DNG) files of ~800GB).<br />

<br />

I would strongly encourage people to only use Drobos as a low-priced ADDITIONAL backup - I would not use a Drobo as either my primary data drive or my primary backup solution.<br />

<br />

I have had numerous problems with them through the years, including the two major issues:<br />

<br />

- Full loss of data on a Drobo FS - this was my worst problem - I spent a long time with Drobo support on the phone - while they claimed it was a problem they had never seen before (hard to believe), in the end they couldn't do anything other than hope I had other backup (which I did). The problem was some sort of "header error" - whatever that means. I was told that the data was still on the drives but the Drobo was not able to get to it - not exactly a comforting fact. I had a similar less fatal issue with a classic Drobo, but that was solved with DiskWarrior; although it was quite stressful for a while and required DiskWarrior which is a $100 purchase.<br />

<br />

- In any casual performance comparisons, I have found the Drobo FS to be much much slower than just about any other NAS device that I have used or tested. To be clear, you do not need any fancy testing to notice this - my wife was able to notice.<br />

<br />

After throwing in the towel with Drobo I went with a QNAP and I can assure you there is no comparison. While it is more expensive, the additional features and options, coupled with the fact that it actually performs its primary function of actually protecting your data, make it an absolute no-brainer. The obvious disadvantage is that all the drives have to be the same, but relative to the performance losses and the massive increased risk of data loss with the Drobo, this is really not such a big issue. I have a 6-bay QNAP running RAID5 with a hot spare.<br />

<br />

I have come to believe that the way to think about Drobo is that it is a super low-cost option (effectively, the ability to mix and match drives makes it very low cost) that can fit in to a backup scheme as a secondary or tertiary backup (which I use and makes sense to use), but I would not use it as either your day-to-day drive or your primary backup.<br />

<br />

David

Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris,<br />

<br />

Part of my problem with any NAS is speed. We found that the faster and less congested the library process was the better things sounded. NAS even setup on a 1GHz Ethernet link still is pretty slow compared to really good Firewire or stellar Thunderbolt drives.<br />

<br />

Most people will have a cobbled together 100MHz Ethernet link and this surely will not have the access time required for drives considering the high over head of the IP protocol.<br />

<br />

Sure it's nice for backup, but I really don't think any NAS sounds that great.<br />

<br />

Thanks<br />

Gordon

Link to post
Share on other sites

view as it pertains to the Synology and other NAS vendors that have caught up to Synology's amazing perfomrance. I love direct attached drives and have always shared your opinion with that regard. Nothing demonstrates this more than the new JPlay player, where it seems an eternity to load music from a simple USB 2.0 drive directly tethered to a computer crawling along at 20 MB/sec. <br />

<br />

I am a little surprised that the Drobo FS made it to the recommended list. The transfer speeds are quite pathetic and the Drobo S (direct attached Raid) as bad as the FS. I think more of these NAS are being returned, based upon what I am reading on the net, than any NAS in recent history.<br />

<br />

With the Synology 1511+ I achieve a consistent 100+ MB/s transfer over my network and with my 1411 Slim, I achieve a consistent 60+ MB/sec.<br />

<br />

With all due respect to the "stellar" thunderbolt drives, the only one I would consider right now, would be the Little Big Disk from LaCie, which is noisy and actually slower than the 1511+. The Promise has issues right now with disconnecting and hopefully will be fixed with a firmware upgrade. But we are talking a big RAID, hot and noisy. A better thunderbolt solution may be in the near future as Intel just announced its new boards in the 2nd quarter will support Thunderbolt and CalDigit is releasing an interface that will allow better RAIDS than Promise to attach via Thunderbolt, but right now, the pickings of Thunderbolt are slim and not so great.<br />

<br />

For a direct disc, I still (assuming 2 gigs is enough)like OWC or CalDigit Guardian MAXimus Mini or VR Mini respectively, both can be run off of bus power of Firewire and run just under 100 MB/sec. They both also have eSata ports for CAPS.<br />

<br />

JG, I would recommend you check out a better NAS than the DROBO, such as the super fast 1511 which is faster than most direct attached drives and Chris, I am a little surprised that the Drobo with its really mediocre performance made it to the list.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi eggers - I tried to reproduce your issue using several different NAS units including the Drobo FS. I believe the issue is related to iTunes. When I use the add to library function the file copies are much slower on all my my units than when I use a straight file copy using Finder.

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

Link to post
Share on other sites

if you are looking, but if the NAS is to be in your listening environment the Synology 411 Slim is spectacular. If it is outside your listening environment get the 1511+ as it is as fast as many Raids. <br />

<br />

Truth is the 1511+ is not very loud and would do just fine in the listening room as well. <br />

<br />

The real issue between the two devices should be size of storage for your needs.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Parisian - The Drobo isn't a great NAS for applications like UPnP/DLNA servers. I played with a few of the apps but decided that apps are not for the Drobo FS target market. As I said in the review. " The Drobo FS is not recommended for the tech savvy tinkerer and the NAS app aficionado."<br />

<br />

Hi Guys - If you browse any NAS manufacturer's forum you'll see many unhappy users. This is just how things work. Happy customers rarely take time to post about their experiences. Angry customers need a solution to their problem and a forum is usually the quickest way to resolve such problems. Such is life.<br />

<br />

In my review I stressed why the Drobo FS is different from other NAS products. Ease of use and lack of knowledge required are items where Drobo FS bests all other NAS products I've used. There are many people for whom these items will outweigh all others.<br />

<br />

I also mentioned speed issues when copying large amounts of data. I'll stress again, I had no speed issues during playback. The NAS delivered the files immediately. <br />

<br />

Hi Priaptor - As I mentioned above, the Drobo FS is the best NAS I've used in terms of ease of use. The speed issue is really a non-issue for most people seeking to store and play music from their networks. Most of the statistics about transfer speeds are non-real world situations. After the first initial data copy most users will never notice a speed issue. The Drobo FS isn't about performance, it's about ease of use for non-technical users. <br />

<br />

The Drobo FS isn't for everyone. I hope I made that clear in the review. <br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi nottlv - You hit the nail on the head with your statement, "Now unRAID is much more of a geeky product than Drobo for sure..." <br />

<br />

I don't consider unRAID a real competitor to the Drobo line of products. However, I do consider unRAID a very cool solution that I am interested in myself. <br />

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

Link to post
Share on other sites

One problem I have had with nas drives in general is not the drives failing, but the controllers failing. After 2 episodes of this, I have gone to single drive backups that sync to additional backup drives using an rsync script such as Carbon Copy Cloner. Using a Synology DS111, with a backup drive attached, I feel a bit more comfortable with backups. Synology has an app that clones the internal drive to the external usb on a schedule.<br />

<br />

My system is use a local usb drive, I use a Prism Orpheus FW dac, and run the rsync to a remote disk in another room whenever I change the music library. My system has a full time database at home so might not be practical for most.<br />

<br />

BTW, that DS111 is cheap and has great apps. Mine lives at a friend's house 70 miles away and is great, really reliable, for critical remote backups. Does Time Machine also, but backing a big library would probably not work due to internet upload restrictions.<br />

<br />

A question, bs'ing with the Amarra folks at RMAF a couple of years ago, they were pretty negative about nas drives for quality. Has anyone noticed any issues vs attached usb or fw drives? I am unable to hear a difference.

Mac Mini 2013 i5 SSD 6G 120 GB - OSX 10.8.5 - Pure Music & Pure Vinyl - synology 3TB NAS - Oppo 105 - Emotiva XSP-1 balanced preamp - Event Opal active speakers & SVS SB-13 sub - 3 custom turntables - hand built Ed Yang tube phono stage - TC Impact 24/192 A-D vinyl ripper- fully treated, equalized listening room

Link to post
Share on other sites

I currently use the Drobo FS in my home system, mainly for music serving.<br />

<br />

I use a Sonos system house wide, and have my Mac on the network, and have the Drobo music folder for both the Sonos use, and iTunes/Fidelia on my Mac, as well as Foobar2000 on bootcamp.<br />

<br />

I am well aware that its not the fastest NAS, and I was particularly un-impressed with the apps that it will run (although there is DLNA and uPnP apps, if I read about them correctly).<br />

<br />

However, for the expressed purpose that I have listed, it works great, and allows my family somewhere to back up their computers and what-not. Being simple to use is also appreciated.

[Home Digital] Bricasti M12 > DIY M2x Monoblocks > Daedalus Audio Muse Studio Speakers

[Home Analog] Technics SL-1200G > K&K Audio Phono Amp (Zu DL-103/Benz Glider-SL/Denon DL-301 II)

[Office] Laptop > Kitsune R2R lvl3 > Violectric V281 > Focal Utopia Headphones (balanced)

[beach/Travel] Laptop > DragonFly Red > Ether Headphones

Link to post
Share on other sites

I always do is make a backup of my library. As to my computers, I always have a cloned disc of my computer, place in a safe place, so that if my disc fails, I can just place the clone in and begin fresh (of course the clone is of my system after installing all apps and ensuring no errors). My data is always stored both on an in computer Raid 5 and a NAS.<br />

<br />

As to Amarra, I would take their recommendations with a grain of salt. I am still waiting for Nov 15th bug release. If there were any more bugs in their software, I would need to hire another exterminator. While I now use CAPS, I once again tried my Mac only to see that Audirvana Plus had another release, 1.12, which in my opinion had a better SQ than Amarra. The first time I noticed a better SQ with Audirvana. I see no detriment to having a NAS that is fast such as a Synology or other with similar throughput. <br />

<br />

One thing is clear. Amarra takes much longer to load files into memory so who knows if their BS was a limitation of their software.

Link to post
Share on other sites

about 4 or 5 NAS devices and have to say, it doesn't get much easier than Synology. I understand that it is different strokes for different folks, but as far as performance and ease of use, the Synology is clearly a better solution than Drobo. <br />

<br />

One of my buddies bought an FS against my advice (as I bought two of them and both went back) awhile ago and I got a call almost immediately "can you help me". Well it turned out that the software included in the box and on their website was not the latest software and they had to send us the new software to get the unit recognized. Yes, it was easy to set up once we got the right software, but I was astounded at how slow it was. I thought there was problem. Clearly the slowest NAS I have ever seen. I took his unit home rather than tinkering with it at his place and it was as slow on my network. 25% the speed of my 411 slim and 15% that of my 1511+. I brought over my slim and he returned it for a Synology 1511+. <br />

<br />

QNAP now make good NAS, whereas years ago, I would never have recommended them as I had a ton of crashes at the work site with them. Now we are using them without issue. <br />

<br />

I have now had my 1511 and slim running almost a year without issue. I have a disc backup in case one fails, but have not had an issue yet.<br />

<br />

While you are probably right regarding speed, I have both a slim and 1511+, the former I use for my computer music and the latter for all my backups including my music library and I am often transferring large amounts of data and in that setting speed is an issue. Also, JPlay, which does load into memory is much faster the faster the access to the data and my trial computer is much faster with my Synology 411 slim than a USB 2.0 attached disc, the former transferring files at 3x the speed as the latter. <br />

<br />

Just my opinion, but I would recommend the Synology much more than the Drobo; in fact, I don't think I could recommend the Drobo for anything.<br />

<br />

<br />

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is a great little device and bought it as soon as it was released.<br />

<br />

It is one of those devices in my computer based audio I could not do without. My latest addition was your CAPS 2.0. Another how did I live without it device.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am currently using multiple Drobos (one for music attached via Firewire, one for photos and one as a NAS backup drive and yes it is slow) and do like the concept and ease of use. I have also had 2 units fail (data was ok) and had a few scares as well when they wouldn't boot up etc... They also dropped support for the Drobo Share awful quickly it seems to me. I am also not impressed with their support policies. So do you due diligence on these before you get one.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I tried a Drobo FS as well a few months ago - under OS X Lion, in my network, it was unusable. I couldn't even get it to stay "alive" on my network long enough to transfer my music (it wasn't a speed issue, though it was pretty slow - rather it would just die and disappear from the network, and would require a hard reboot). This happened when directly connected to one of my Macs, as well as going through my router (using different cables too, just to make sure it wasn't a bad wire). Drobo support was so bad that I sent it back.<br />

<br />

I went with a Synology and am very pleased with it.<br />

<br />

Digital: Schiit Yggy + Gumby, Meridian Explorer2

Headphone: Woo WA22, Audez'e LCD3, Beyerdynamic T1

Amplification: Pass Labs INT30A, Focal 1027be

Analog: VPI Classic, Soundsmith Zephy, EAR 834P

LastFM: WharfRatJustin

Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad to see this review. It sounds cool. I am surprised at people's complaints.<br />

<br />

Personally, I highly value boxes (such as this one) that allows drives to be replaced when they fail or when much increased drive capacities become available. (I use a now-extinct 4 bay HP EX490 Media Storage Server running "Microsoft Windows Home Server 2003".)

Peachtree Audio DAC-iT, Dynaco Stereo 70 Amp w/ Curcio triode cascode conversion, MCM Systems .7 Monitors

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a 2nd gen Drobo and can relate to others about the speed problems. It is definitely not a speed demon particularly when you approach the 80% mark. I have had a few issues with the unit when updating to Lion (in all fairness it was right after Lion came out and Drobo hadn't released new software/firmware) and a couple minor issues with drives that were supposedly dead to the drobo but were perfectly accessible when plugged into something else. One thing I will say is when it works it does exactly as advertised. So far I have been lucky that is has done exactly as it is supposed. Once a drive reported probs, had to be removed. Immediately another drive encountered the same thing. Replaced one drive and the drobo asked for the other drive. No data was lost with 2 drives out of the Drobo. It merely asked me to put a new one in and apparently there was no issue with the other drive as it just integrated back into the RAID arrangement. That was impressive. If it weren't the slowest thing on earth I would heartily recommend it. Im a bit disappointed that with all the folks with these units that no one has attempted to make their own software for the drives. A jailbroken drobo if you will. I was also a bit alarmed with the discontinuation of droboshare so quickly. Still not sure why you needed that unit when the drobo already has a processor and the like to install software. But I guess their newer units let you do the app thing and the like. All in all it was a good purchase. Had I to do it again, I would have probably went with QNAP or something like that. At the time I bought the unit they were not quite the full featured products they are now. Now that the drobo share is no more I have a feeling support for drobo gen 2 is about to get sparse. Good review. Glad you brought out all the negatives (as they are considerable) in your review as well. Certainly more balanced than the other reviews I'd read.

Macbook Pro 2010->DLNA/UPNP fed by Drobo->Oppo BDP-93->Yamaha RXV2065 ->Panasonic GT25 -> 5.0 system Bowers & Wilkins 683 towers, 685 surrounds, HTM61 center ->Mostly SPDIF, or Analog out. Some HDMI depending on source[br]Selling Art Is Tying Your Ego To A Leash And Walking It Like A DoG[br]

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...